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21 Gay Couples Wed in New York

The Nation

February 28, 2004|From Associated Press

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — Twenty-one gay couples exchanged wedding vows on the steps of Village Hall Friday in a spirited ceremony that opened another front on the growing national debate over gay marriage.

As the ceremonies by 26-year-old Mayor Jason West were ending, the state Health Department asked the attorney general to seek an injunction "to prevent further illegal conduct by the mayor," a department spokesman said.

A call to Atty. Gen. Eliot Spitzer's office was not immediately returned.

West was elected on the Green Party ticket last year in this village 75 miles north of New York City.

"What we're witnessing in America today is the flowering of the largest civil rights movement the country's had in a generation," West said.

Billiam van Roestenberg, 38, and Jeffrey McGowan, 39, of nearby Plattekill, were the first to wed. Wearing suits, they held hands and carried flowers as the crowd cheered.

"I feel happy and joyful and peaceful," Van Roestenberg said. "A little bit of peace has finally come in. I feel proud to be an American."

"Now I'm normal and equal like everyone else," he said.

The midday ceremonies ended a little more than an hour after they started.

More than 100 people, mostly supporters of gay marriage, turned out on the green across from Village Hall, outnumbering family and friends of the couples there to marry. A few scattered protesters carried signs opposing gay marriage.

Jay Blotcher of High Falls, N.Y., said that while West could only give him a certificate and not a marriage license, it was still important to go through the ceremony.

"We have to show people who we are," he said. "We've been badmouthed by religious zealots. We've been deprived by President Bush, and we have to show people that we're your friends, neighbors and family."

Blotcher, who with his partner has already gotten a civil union in Vermont and a domestic partnership in New York City, said Friday marked another important step.

"This country was founded on a revolution," he said. "And this is a revolution, but it's a revolution of love."

One protester stood outside the hall with a sign that read, in part, "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

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